When Your Spouse Still Mourns What Can No Longer Be

By Ginger Kolbaba
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

When a marriage ends, it's normal to mourn the loss of what can no longer be. Those times of grieving are a part of the healing process, and they offer opportunities to show love to your new spouse.

“What’s going on with you today?” I asked my husband, Scott, when I noticed he seemed subdued.

He was thinking about his daughter. We’d recently celebrated her birthday, and we knew she carried the stress of scheduling separate parties with her mother and father. “If her mom and I were still married,” Scott said, “she wouldn’t be stuck in the middle like this.”

I could have been angry that he wished he were still with his former wife. I could have let insecurity take over and allowed myself to withdraw from him. But I recognized something simple and innocent: Scott was grieving.

When a marriage ends, it’s normal to mourn the loss of what can no longer be — traditions, the future together as a biological family. Those times of grieving are an essential part of the healing process, and they offer opportunities for us to show love to our husband or wife. Here’s how:

Don’t take it personally.

Recently I learned that my high school is closing. I’ve been surprised by how sad I’ve felt at that news. It’s not that my time in high school was amazing. But those four years took me through a formative era — it’s my history. As much as I grieve that loss, I certainly don’t want to go back to high school!

That’s similar to what happens with our spouse when he or she mourns. My husband doesn’t want to go back to his former marriage. Nor does his grief have any connection to his feelings about me. He mourns losing the family ideal he spent his life imagining — one that allows his daughter to enjoy special occasions with her whole family together.

We help our spouse heal when we don’t take that grief personally and when we recognize it for what it is — the sad reality of a broken world.

Give your spouse space.

Almost 20 years after her first marriage ended, a woman I know still grieves every December, the month her first husband left her. Her second husband prepares for that. She allows the sadness to come and prays through it, while her husband sympathizes and encourages her to respond the way she needs to.

“Knowing that my husband gives me that time and space to be sad and that he doesn’t feel threatened by it makes me love him even more,” she says.

Our marriages are strengthened as we recognize those times when grief often resurfaces and offer the space our husband or wife needs.

Be available to comfort and listen.

Grief has no time limit. We may be tempted to think, Would you get over that already? But the best way to help is to be available to listen and offer kindness. Our compassion shouldn’t change just because our spouse is mourning something from a previous marriage.

Ask how you can best respond during those times. Your spouse will probably appreciate your concern and view your marriage as a safe place.

Allow yourself to grieve, too.

There may be times when you find yourself mourning. That, too, is normal. Acknowledge your grief, pray and give yourself time to process what you’re feeling. Grief will ebb and flow, but if it starts to affect your relationship, seek help to find out what may be causing the inability to heal.

Allowing each other to grieve is important. When you and your spouse mourn honestly and openly, you pave the way to draw nearer to each other.

© 2018 by Ginger Kolbaba. Used by permission.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

About the Author

Ginger Kolbaba

Ginger Kolbaba is a freelance author and speaker.

You May Also Like

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.

If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.